Posted by: atowhee | March 1, 2015


After my recent blog on Dippers nest-building in Lithia Park, I queried the OBOL community on where else there were in-town Dippers in Oregon.  So far, here is the list of towns where fellow birders have confirmed Metro-Dippers:

Bend:  “Dippers regularly breed under the walking bridge crossing the Deschutes (below my house) here in Bend. I hear them every morning. Beats an alarm clock.  Steve Kornfeld”

Canyon City: “I’ve seen dippers at the bridge by the Grant County courthouse in Canyon
City — and in metropolitan Marion Forks, too.  ;-)
Paul Sullivan”

Marion Forks

Mitchell, along Bridge Creek in southern Wheeler County.


Timber, on the Nehalem

DPR-CARRY2 (1280x960)Click here for link to previous blog on the nest-building pair here in Ashland. in 2013 there were three known nests along Ashland Creek in central Ashland.  Just for the record there are Euro-Dippers along the river flowing through Baden-Baden, Germany.

Posted by: atowhee | March 1, 2015


“Bird Watcher’s Digest” published my letter to then about Great Gray Owls.  The species was on the cover and featured inside in their last issue of 2014.  Here’s the letter mildly chiding them for not including information on Great Gray Owl nest platforms.  It gave me a chance to plug both the Rogue Valley Audubon nest platform program and the Mountain Bird Festival.GGOWL LETTER TO BWD

By the way I will be speaking on Great Gray Owls of the Oregon, California and Washington at the bird festival in LeGrande, Oregon, on May 15.  It is the Ladd Marsh Bird Festival and includes field trips to GGO nesting habitat at Spring Creek.MTBF COLOR LOGOGLARETaken last month along Dead Indian Memorial Road in Jackson County, elevation 4600 feet.

Posted by: atowhee | February 28, 2015


Our group from my birding class at North Mountain Nature Center had a day of clouds and great birding.  Last night’s rain had moved east and left us with puddles but no precip.  Birds were hungry and some were even in a nesting mood.  We saw over 40 species during the day.  Nesting Great Horned Owl-check.  Nesting Great Blue Heron-check. Dipper pair nest-building in Lithia Park-check.  White-throated Sparrow at North Mountain-check. Crows chasing Raven-check.  Crows chasing Cooper’s Hawk-check.  Screech-Owl asleep in his box-check. Lesser Goldfinch in bold spring colors-check. Shoveler and Green-winged Teal in breeding plumage.  A gang of Lewis’s Woodpeckers fly-catching and iridescent in the sun.  A White-tailed Kite hunting a hillside at Emigrant Lake.  Black Phoebe hawking gnats over Ashland Pond.  Flickers in spring plumage including one with yellowish underwings.

P2340149 (1280x960) P2340153 (1280x960) P2340180 (1280x960) P2340169 (1280x960) P2340158 (1280x960)Wow, we actually have snow in the Cascades.  Not a usual sight around here during this warm winter. High today: 54 degrees F.


North Mountain Park, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 28, 2015 8:00 AM – 9:20 AM.  23 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  6
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  4
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  3
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  2
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  2
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  10
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  8
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  3
Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata)  X     HEARD ONLY
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  30
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  25
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  8
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  50
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  30
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  20

Ashland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 28, 2015 10:20 AM – 11:05 AM. 19 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  1
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  8
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  2
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  4
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  20
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  6
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  12
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  X

Lithia Park, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 28, 2015 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM. 4 species

Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii)  1
American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)  2     NEST BUILDING UNDER BRIDGE #3
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  X

Howard Prairie Circuit, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 28, 2015 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
6 species

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1     on nest along Hwy 66 near Oak Knoll Golf Course
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)  1     female on nest
Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)  6     Hwy 66, milepost 10
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  X     singing at MP 10 on Hwy 66

Emigrant Lake, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 28, 2015 11:50 AM – 1:20 PM. 15 species
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  3
White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)  1     hunting at southeast end of lake, east of Rosebud Lane
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  5
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  2
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  2
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  6
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  6
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)  2
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  2
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  4
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  15
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  6

Posted by: atowhee | February 28, 2015


Our Ashland Park & Rec birding field trip happened to arrive at the Lithia Park Dipper nest site at exactly the right time this morning.  Both of the mated Dippers were present, and hunting.  Not for food but for nesting material.  We watched one check out a leaf, dampen it and then lose it into the current.  Not sure if that was a reject or an accident.  We also witnessed plenty of stick carrying to the nest beneath the bridge.DPR WHIRL (1280x960) DPR-CARRY (1280x960) DPR-CARRY2 (1280x960) dpr-cvarry3 (1280x960) DPR-FOOD1 (1280x960) DPR-NST1 (1280x960) DPR-NST2 (1280x960) DPR-NST3 (1280x960) DPR-NST4 (1280x960) DPR-NST5 (1280x960) DPR-NST6 (1280x960) DPR-NST7 (1280x960) DPR-NST8 DPR-NST9 (1280x960) DPR-NST10 (1280x960)Below the nictitating membrane flashes white in front of the Dipper’s eye. nictitatingFollowing the Dipper along crashing, foaming Ashland Creek I can only admire perseverance in the face of peril, temerity trumping timidity, adaptation out-stripping adversity, survival in contradiction to human understanding.dpr1 (1280x960) dpr2 (1280x960) DPR4 (1280x960) DPR5 (1280x960) DPR6 (1280x960) DPR7 (1280x960) DPR8 (1280x960) DPR9 (1280x960)P2340189 (1280x960)Do I credit license plate kharma coming down?


Our Mountain Bird Festival here in Ashland has walks designed to get birders a look at Dippers.  You can click here for information on signing up.MTBF COLOR LOGOMoney from Festival goes to support Klamath Bird Observatory, the only NGO doing bird science in southern Oregon and northern California.

Posted by: atowhee | February 27, 2015


Alpha predators all display a lot of attitude.  Warlords. Hedge fund managers.  Merger and acquisition lawyers.  NBA team owners.  Grizzly and polar bears.  Orca.  Housecats. River otter.  Half of controlling your domain requires attitude in large measure.  Down at the pond today the otter was very concerned with showing my dogs that HE not tHEy was the alpha predator in that domain.ot1 ot2OT3 OT4 OT6 OT7 OT8OT4 (2) OT10 OT11 OT12

Posted by: atowhee | February 27, 2015


condor1Click on this to see larger version and count the black specks.  Brandon Breen sent me these two shots, with the note “these are not gnats.”   Andean Condors seen in Argentina. condor2Some details on where Brandon was: “Some more information regarding those condors. I saw them in Nahuel Huapi National Park, near the town of San Carlos de Bariloche (northern Patagonia in Argentina). And I saw them on the hike to the Otto Meiling refuge, located near Mount Tronador.”

Posted by: atowhee | February 27, 2015



CRNR PLUM P2330709   SLEEPING OWLRCKI TRUNKD WNTR HUMMROur only wintering hummer–the male Anna’s. Y-R BAD LITE Y-R VERTYellow-rump, in situ and in flight. yrwa in air BKHE2 BLUE1If you had plumage like that you’d spend a lot of time preening as well.  This heron is ready for the spring courtship season.  Int he bad old days his ancestors were slaughtered this time of year so those plumes could be put into female humans’ hats.  That’s a fashion that;s not coming back, thankfully. BUSH-SUET HOFI BUSH1House Finch HOFI BUSH2 HOMER1HOMER1 HOMER2 MALL-MOMA P2330705 (1074x901)

Posted by: atowhee | February 26, 2015


Click on this link for photos by Chris Hartzell.  He’s a Monterey-based photographer who got to see his Great Gray here in the southern Oregon Cascades.  We met when he came to hear me talk about GGOs at Klamath Basin Audubon’s meeting in January.  Next day he was in the snowy (then) mountains looking for GGOs.  Bingo.

Here are Chris’s words on his finally getting to photograph a Great Gray Owl: If you want the whole story, it goes like this…

For the last decade I have been wanting to see and photograph a Great Gray Owl. I had been to Yosemite twice and missed both times. My mother, who lives in Williams OR, said there were a couple pairs that live near her that she had seen. But after several attempts we were still unsuccessful in finding them for me to see, let alone photograph. On this particular trip we spent two days searching for them in her area. False reports from neighbors had us chasing Great Horned. Finally, I decided to use other resources. I looked up Great Gray Owl sightings on eBird and found a majority in the Howard Prairie Lake area. We had originally planned on only one day to search for them, spending all of the remaining two days afterwards at the Klamath Refuges. We headed out and arrived around 1pm in the area and began an slow and methodical search. At 4:30pm, just before the sun was about to dip behind clouds and then the horizon, I had a feeling to give one last pass. We were anxious to get going so it would be a “fast pass.” I made the U-turn and reached 40mph when I saw the gray clump on the edge of the trees and came to an immediate stop. There in the trees was my first Great Gray Owl. Over the next 30 minutes I was able to make a slow approach, with my wife Ame staying behind. The owl was still rather far and even with flash, shooting was about to be gone for good. Then suddenly it flew right up to me and perched in the tree above me. I crouched down and fired away. I was not fully prepared for when it launched down and landed in the snow 20 feet in front of me on an unknown creature. It sat for a couple minutes not caring about my camera and flash firing away. Finally it flew up and away into the trees. We departed thinking it was a one time deal. Upon arriving at the hotel, the owner saw our gear and asked what we were photographing. When she heard we were into birds, she pulled out a newspaper with an advertisement for a bird talk that night. What a coincidence…it was on Great Gray Owls! We attended a spectacular presentation that night by Harry Fuller, a specialist on Great Grays. The pics were fantastic, but the presentation was also just as good. Keeping it moving well and the perfect mix of facts and stories, the hour and half flew by. After the presentation I spoke with him about finding them. He gave me directions to a couple of them, one of them happened to be the exact owl we had seen. With this new information we changed our itinerary the next two days. Instead of spending two full days at the refuges, we would spend the afternoon of each day at the owls. The next afternoon, after successfully finding the leucistic Bald Eagle, we headed back up into the mountains. We reached the area about 2:30pm and sure enough, the same owl was sitting in the same place. We all took our positions of choice, about 50 feet from him and then just sat and waited. After about an hour, here he came, swooping out of the trees and pouncing on a critter just 30 feet from me. He flew up into the trees where it was eaten before I could see the owl with it. Another hour later, just as the light was fading, he went for one more. Although farther away from us, it was still great to see. It was slightly disappointing only in the type of attack. After hearing the talk about how they go head first into the snow, I was hoping to catch this on film. However, the snow didn’t seem to be deep enough and the owl made a rather typical approach and pounce. But it didn’t underscore the fact that we had now seen three kills! A real treat! The next afternoon we headed back up. After a search for two hours, we could not find any owls and had a snack break. One last pass before heading out to dinner and we spotted a different owl perched just 30 feet off the road. It was in the perfect position, but our assumption that it would be as comfortable as the other was incorrect and seconds after exiting the vehicle, it flew off deep into the woods. It was the end of the day and time to leave. We left the owls to spend the remainder of our time at the refuges. After a decade of searching, I not only had seen a Great Gray, but was lucky enough to photograph it hunt. A rewarding experience thanks to eBird, lucky timing of a great presentation, and hours sitting in the snow.

Here’s one of my nt-so-hot pictures.GGO PEEK2

BTW the book on Great Gray Owls of Oregon-California-Washington will be out later this year, let me know if you want to by a copy.  100 great photos by my co-author, Peter Thiemann.  Original, detailed range maps for the species based on lots of conversation with biologists across the three states.

MTBF COLOR LOGORegistration for Klamath Bird Observatory’s Mountain Bird Festival is moving quickly.  Find info on the KBO website.  The Festival is May 29-31.

Posted by: atowhee | February 24, 2015


LANG GGO1 These two Great Gray Owl pictures were taken by Michael Lang, a photographer from Chico. His website is:

Info on top pic: Canon 1DX w/ 200-400mm internal T.C. on + additional 1.4III    1/1250 sec, f 5.6, ISO 25,600. Spot metering + 1 (full manual mode).  On pic below: Canon 1DX w/ 200-400mm  @ 300mm.  1/1000 sec, f4, ISO 10,000. spot metering +1 (full manual mode).  Thanks, Michael for sharing.

He says he wants pics of GGO in the snow…wait’ll next year…

LANG GGO2 By the way, Peter Thiemann and I are slaving away on our Great Gray Owl, it should go off to the printers this winter.  It’s on the GGOs of OR-CA-WA that have never gotten book treatment before this.  Owl chasers will find our original, detailed breeding range maps to be very interesting.wso on cove roadThis Screech-Owl is in a tree just outside a home on Cove Road east of Ashland.  Last year the homeowners had nesting Pygmy-Owls in this same oak.  The little guys may have to go somewhere else this spring.


The Mountain Bird Festival in late May still has some openings.  You can see schedule of trips by clicking here.MTBF COLOR LOGO

Posted by: atowhee | February 22, 2015


There was intense biology being had down at the pond this afternoon.  At first glance all was serene, soporific even.  But upon close scrutiny…


In what must be mundane sexual acrobatics for woodpeckers (no pun intended), a pair of Flickers were hard at work on the next generation even though it is only February.FLKR FUKR1 FLKR FUKR2Two f-words involved, and only one of them is “flicker.” FLKR FUKR3NOFL DO IT P2330605 (1280x960) P2330616 (1280x960)Clearly these birds have a prowess even NFL linebackers would be jealous of.  And they didn’t need any team-mates “egging” them on.


The most magical thing about the avian Merlin, how quickly it can disappear.  This time I just happened to be taking pictures when it vanished.  Now we can see how they go away:MERL SITS MERL LIFTOFFIn these two shots the bird is headed directly away from the camera. MERL GONThe Merlin’s quick take-off and powerful wing beats bring it up to speed almost instantly by our slow-moving standards.  Here this second, gone the next.


Over the eons the avian folk gave up their front legs for flight, a clever trade.  They are the world’s most adept long-distance flyers.  But that means their two feet must perform many functions…and their only other grasping, manipulating tool is…the beak.

S-J BEAKFor some birds it is a grasping and tearing tool. For some–like creeper or leafgleaner–it is a pair of tweezers.  For many it is a nest building tool.  For woodpecker and nuthatch it is a chisel.  For all it is a drinking cup.  For those who build mud nests it doubles as both hod-carrier and stucco spatula.  For birds like ibis and godwit it is a probe and a sensor of vibrations in the mud.  For the cranes it is a spade.  For the kiwi it is a sensitive soil probe.  For dabbling ducks it is a sieve and sensitive taste organ.  For many it is a weapon.  For raptors it can be a butchering tool.  For some falcons it has a notch that elevates it to an efficient dispatching weapon.  For toucans and their ilk it is a fruit knite extraordinaire.  For many vocal birds it is a megaphone.  For pelicans it is both fishing net and creel.  And for nearly all birds it is comb and preening tool. S-J BEAK1 S-J BEAK2 S-J BEAK3 S-J FACINGAshland Pond, Jackson, US-OR
Feb 22, 2015 4:15 PM – 5:00 PM.  17 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  7
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2     copulating
Merlin (Falco columbarius)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  6
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  9
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  X
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  X

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